WICHITA (KSNT) – The case involving two brothers convicted in a crime spree in December 2000 in Wichita that left five people dead will be the focus of arguments in the Kansas Supreme Court Monday.
Jonathan and Reginald Carr were convicted in 2002 on four counts of capital murder, one count of murder, one count of attempted murder, and multiple counts of rape, kidnapping, and robbery. Though the brothers’ conviction has been upheld, the sentencing phase of the capital murder charges is the focus of the appeal process.
In 2014, the Kansas Supreme Court overturned the Carr brothers’ death sentence over one issue regarding how the sentencing proceedings were carried out. Then in 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the state’s decision. There were other issues from that 2014 appeal that weren’t addressed so attorneys will pick up where they left off on Monday.
“I brought back an attorney who worked here for almost 30 years, who heard the last 10 years of the appeals and was a part of the appellate process all the way through,” said Marc Bennett, Sedgwick County District Attorney. “He’s back, and I will be sitting with him Monday when he makes those arguments.”
Monday’s oral arguments will be to consider more than a dozen other issues that were raised in the original appeal. The state court in 2014 didn’t consider the additional issues because it had already ruled to overturn the death sentences. The state Supreme Court will ultimately make a ruling again whether the death penalty should be upheld or overturned on other grounds, although that won’t transpire on Monday.
The week-long crime spree involved the robbery of an assistant baseball coach and the carjacking of Ann Walenta, a local cellist, who was injured and later died in the hospital. A few days later, the brothers broke into a home where they abused and terrorized the five friends present inside for hours. After forcing them to take money out of ATMs, they were taken to a field, shot in the head, run over, and left for dead. Brad Heyka, Heather Muller, Aaron Sander and Jason Befort were killed.
A woman, known as H.G. throughout the trial, survived when the bullet hit a barrette in her hair. Her testimony was key in the case.
Bennett says capital murder cases will go through many appeals and can be very lengthy. These proceedings are still the first stage of appeal, called the direct appeal, which determines if the trial was handled correctly. Typically, a capital murder case will then go to a collateral appeal, where a defendant can appeal on issues such as the ineffectiveness of counsel. The final kind of appeal is a habeas corpus appeal when a defendant objects to the proceedings of the actual death penalty.
“This case, whether it was 21 years ago or 20 years from now, has the full attention of this office and will have the full attention of this office until it is done and settled, whatever that ultimately will be,” Bennett said.
Bennett says if the death penalty sentencing is overturned by the Kansas Supreme Court, his office could choose to bring in a new jury and seek the death penalty again.